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Solar Bears Week in Review: New year, new leadership

The Solar Bears begin 2020 with a new captain and a home loss.

NHL: SEP 21 Preseason - Lightning at Predators Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a busy December, the Orlando Solar Bears got a bit of an on-ice break to begin 2020. However, off-ice the team was busy with roster moves, naming a new captain, and taking a field trip west to Lakeland.

Alas, it was back to work for the team on Sunday, and they ran right into a buzzsaw from the North Division.

Roster Moves:

-After just two appearances with Syracuse in December, defenseman Oleg Sosunov was reassigned to the Solar Bears on Friday.

-Also on Friday, Orlando suspended forward Jimmy Lodge in order to keep his ECHL playing rights. Lodge had appeared in 13 games for the Solar Bears, with 3 goals and 2 assists. He is leaving the Solar Bears to “pursue an opportunity overseas in Europe,” per the Solar Bears press release. Lodge is the third skater to leave the team this season to go across the pond (Tayler Thompson, who subsequently returned to Florida, and Hunter Fejes are the others).

Zachary Fucale’s Most Interesting Week Ever?

We’re giving goaltender Zachary Fucale his own section in this recap, because he had quite the week.

On Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland, he stopped all 26 shots as Team Canada won the Spengler Cup with a 4-0 win over HC Ocelari Trinec.

For the tournament, Fucale finished 3-0 with a miniscule 0.33 GAA, stopping 72 of 73 shots faced for a .986 save percentage. He was reassigned to Orlando’s roster on Thursday, but the next day, Fucale was on his way up to Syracuse. The recall occurred despite no injury/callup issues for the Crunch’s current goaltending tandem. So...why?

Fucale did get the start on Saturday night in Laval, stopping 12 of 15 shots in a 3-2 Crunch loss to the Rocket.

We now interrupt this recap...

...for a special announcement from the Solar Bears locker room:

With the first captain Mike Monfredo off to Greenville after a trade in December, Chris LeBlanc has assumed the coveted C for his sweater. Four others will rotate the A’s for home and road games.

2019 Inside the Numbers

Before the 2020 portion of the season begins, let’s review the stats for the Solar Bears for 2019. All stats are as of January 1, 2020.

Record: 31 games played, 13-13-4-1, 31 points. 4th place in South Division, 9th in Eastern Conference, 19th in ECHL.

Home: 8-6-1-0. Away: 5-7-3-1.

Individual Highlights:

Clint Windsor ranks first among ECHL goaltenders in save percentage (.938) and second in GAA (2.13). Fucale ranks 9th in GAA (2.60).

Rich Boyd ranks second among ECHL rookies in shooting percentage (25%, 4 goals on 16 shots).

Tristin Langan ranks third among ECHL rookies in plus/minus (+10).

Michael Brodzinski ranks sixth in defensemen scoring with 21 points.

Team Stats:

Penalty Minutes: 454, for an average of 14.65 per game. 9th in ECHL.

Power Play: 16.0%, 15th. Penalty Kill: 90.1%, 1st. Shorthanded Goals: 7, tied for 1st.

Goals For/Game: 2.61, 24th. Goals Against/Game: 2.74, tied for 4th.

Shots For/Game: 30.35, 16th. Shots Against/Game: 34.39, 21st.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Chris LeBlanc (10)

Assists: Michael Brodzinski (17)

Points: Michael Brodzinski (21)

Penalty Minutes: Kevin Lohan/Trevor Olson (33)

Power Play Goals: Alexey Lipanov (4)

Shorthanded Goals: Chris LeBlanc (2)

Game Winning Goals: Rich Boyd (2)

Sunday, 1/5: Brampton 7, Orlando 3

After an 8-day break, the Solar Bears finally played their first game of 2020, as they hosted the Beast from the North Division in a Sunday afternoon matinee.

The Beast broke through against the league’s best penalty kill in the first period. In a span of 2:02 on two separate penalties, Daniel Leavens and David Vallorani both connected for a 2-0 Brampton lead. Lipanov cut the Beast lead in half at the 8:13 mark with his 7th goal of the season.

Orlando tied the game at 2 5:03 into the second period on a goal by Jake Coughler, which was confirmed as a good score via a video review.

Brampton took over the game two and a half minutes later, as Beast captain Jordan Henry broke the tie with his fifth goal of the season. David Pacan added his 10th goal just over a minute later for a 4-2 Brampton lead. With Orlando on a late power play, Jackson Leef picked up a shorthanded goal to extend the Beast lead to three after 40 minutes.

Trevor Olson drew the Solar Bears back to within 5-3 6:24 into the third period with a shorthanded goal, his 6th of the season. The Beast took the 3-goal lead back 57 seconds later on a power play goal by Francois Beauchemin, spelling the end of the day for Windsor, as he was pulled in favor of rookie Chase Perry. Brampton was not done scoring, however—Erik Bradford added his 9th goal shorthanded with 2:39 left in the game for the final 7-3 margin.

Windsor finished with 24 saves on 30 shots, while Perry stopped 7 of 8 in his ECHL debut. Langan added two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Erik Bradford (BRM) 1 goal, 2 assists

2. Daniel Leavens (BRM) 1 goal, 2 assists

1. David Pacan (BRM) 1 goal, 2 assists

This Week:

The Solar Bears head north to Virginia for a two-game set with Norfolk on Friday and Saturday.